Daniel and Thomas Freeland-Cook dinner give us the lowdown on the comings and goings at their family-run farm and contracting enterprise within the Scottish Borders, 9 years after our final go to.
See additionally: Tractor tuning perks and pitfalls: Is it well worth the danger?
Cliftoncote Farm, Yetholm
Farm 2,400ha throughout seven websites – a mixture of farm enterprise tenancies and contract farming agreements
Cropping Primarily grass and inexperienced crops comparable to kale and fodder beet
Inventory 5,000 ewes, 1,600 ewe hogs and as much as 8,000 lambs; 140-head Hereford and Saler suckler herd
Contracting Mowing, raking, baling and numerous groundworks
Workers Daniel, brother Allistair and his spouse Clair, niece Emma, nephew Thomas. There’s additionally a full-time shepherd, seasonal tractor drivers and lambing assist
What’s occurred since we final noticed you?
Probably the most vital change pertains to farming coverage relatively than equipment.
Our land is now not on a retirement lease, as essential landlord determined to maneuver us and another of its 40-odd tenants to five-year farm enterprise agreements. That may inevitably affect how we plan issues going ahead.
We additionally had the problem of Storm Arwen in November 2021. It flattened a few our older sheds, which we’ve since changed – doubling the footprint and becoming a brand new cattle dealing with system within the course of.
Any modifications to the tractor fleet?
We ran John Deeres for 25 years and received on properly with them, however they had been more and more costly.
So, 5 years in the past, we traded in a 6930 and 7930 – each of which have turned out to be fashionable classics – for a Valtra T254.
On the time it appeared a no brainer, because it was £30k cheaper than the same spec Deere.
It hasn’t been solely plain crusing although, not least as a result of it was parked up within the vendor’s workshop for 16 weeks by means of the peak of summer season with gearbox points.
The downtime definitely received us considering, and this spring we changed it with an ex-hire JD 6R215 on 1,500 hours. It wasn’t low cost, regardless of us avoiding the early depreciation hit, however it’s undoubtedly a giant step up from the Valtra.
We’ve additionally modified our perspective to engine tuning. We used to have each tractor chipped virtually as quickly because it rolled into the yard and, at one level, we had three Deere 6930s cranked up from 160hp to 200hp.
They had been correct pocket rockets and served us properly, however we had been clearly pushing our luck. ECUs and EGRs had been normally the primary issues to play up.
Today it’s simpler and extra dependable to only purchase an even bigger tractor – even when it prices much more.
Plus, we take five-year guarantee packages on them. To this point, that has proved a great transfer, as we’ve had our fair proportion of issues.
The £20,000 invoice for gearbox and brake points on the T254 was twice the price of the prolonged guarantee, and our T214 needed to be cut up to kind clutch pack issues – a job that solely price us the £380 extra cost.
What about implements?
We’ve flitted between numerous fastened and variable chamber balers however, after giving up straw baling, settled on a McHale Fusion 3 with film-on-film wrapping.
It eats all the pieces in its path, and the plastic wrap makes for a greater seal and retains forage wastage to a minimal.
That stated, it’s not with out its challenges – primarily in dry circumstances when the movie typically fails to stay on the bale and finally ends up wrapping across the rotor.
It’s now 5 years outdated and was due for substitute within the winter, however that has been pushed again to subsequent spring.
We love the concept of the continuous Vicon baler-wrapper, besides that we’re on steep floor and each bale wants putting rigorously to keep away from them rolling away.
In addition to the straw baling, we’ve stopped ploughing in favour of a min-till system and likewise bought the Moore Unidrill.
The chap that purchased it’s going to almost definitely tackle our contract drilling, as we’re simply too busy within the spring with calving and lambing.
Plus, it’s extra productive for us to spend spare time on agricultural and forestry groundworks.
Constructing roads, loading bays and entry routes for the forwarders can maintain a number of of us busy on the diggers and dump trailers, which beats working round sowing a number of acres with the Unidrill.
An Opico Grass Grasp and seeder, which we used to place in about 400ha of grass leys and inexperienced crops this 12 months.
The Deere 6R215 additionally got here within the spring, as did a 5.5t Watson flat roll with a transport equipment.
Having a way of simply shifting it on the street is a sport changer, significantly now we’ve got the Grass Grasp, which leaves the bottom a bit fluffy and is in want of a great press to push the stones in.
We’ve received one other three flat rollers however, with no transport equipment, we have a tendency to go away them dotted round so there’s all the time one close by.
Subsequent on the want checklist?
The transfer to min-till means we have to change our cultivators. We’ve had a Vaderstad Provider on rent to run alongside the Simba discs, however there’s sufficient work to justify shopping for our personal.
The change of system was primarily to recover from the bottom faster – spring is all the time busy with livestock – however it has additionally decreased the price of carrying metallic, will assist maintain moisture within the floor and the discs pull up fewer stones on our marginal land.
Additional down the road, the dream is to have a drone to verify on the inventory over the hills whereas sitting in an armchair with a beer.
At current, we’d solely make it spherical all of them as soon as every week, however with a drone we might do it extra continuously with out disrupting shoots and scaring pheasants.
Ideally, it wants to have the ability to fly three or 4 miles, however we haven’t began wanting but.
Personal channel radio. We’re within the hills, so telephone sign is patchy at finest, and we will’t depend on CBs both.
The bottom unit is put in on the tallest constructing on the farm and it’ll cowl as much as 20 miles, so each particular person is contactable and there’s no interference.
We’ve received them in all of the automobiles and the shepherds have handheld variations, which has considerably improved security.
The entire equipment price about £5,000, plus a £500 annual subscription.
We’ve additionally beefed up safety, although whether or not it proves a great funding stays to be seen. There are quad bikes all over the place round right here because it’s a livestock space, and thefts are rife within the Borders – one will get pinched each couple of weeks.
Regardless that we’re a good manner alongside a dead-end valley street, we haven’t been resistant to the issue.
It’s not well worth the danger of confronting the thieves, however becoming cameras, lights, trackers and the like will hopefully act as a deterrent.
Any main breakdowns?
Other than the tractor gearboxes, the most important one was snapping the dipper on the digger whereas shifting stone – the digger moved and the stone didn’t. It’s a recognized weak level on JCBs.
The Dyna-Drive can also be good at dropping its rear crumbler curler.
Most overpriced spare half?
Mudguard swivels don’t final 5 minutes and you must purchase the complete substitute meeting, relatively than just some bits to patch them again collectively.
Promoting the John Deere 6930 AutoPowr as a part of the trade-in for the primary Valtra.
It was a full-spec 11-plate with loader and entrance pto, and it was chipped to over 200hp.
At 7,000 hours the gearbox began making a humorous noise on the hillside, and we received scared.
On reflection, we should always have simply spent £10k on a brand new gearbox. Because it was, we received £45k for it, and likewise bought the 7930, to get one Valtra that ended up being troublesome.
Our 2011 Land Rover Defender. It got here from the jail service in Edinburgh in pristine situation with simply 10,000 miles on the clock, and it price £20,000.
The chassis is like new and, after giving it a recent set of wheels, an Ifor Williams again, a respray and a few further guards, it’s now my brother Allistair’s essential car for pulling the inventory field or Combi Clamp sheep handler.
One other is the John Deere telehandler. It price us the equal of £15,000 on 2,500 hours once we traded in an outdated JCB 3CX. It does about 800 hours/12 months – it’s now on 8,000 hours – and might be value £20k.
Top-of-the-line issues we did was match industrial tyres, because it lives within the yard whereas the loader tractors do a lot of the working round.
They’ve been a sport changer – no punctures, minimal tyre put on, and it’s extra steady.
A D-reg (1986) Land Rover. It has been around the clock many instances, had a brand new chassis 20 years in the past, and is used every single day by the shepherd. It’s most likely nonetheless value properly north of £10k.
The Bomford Dyna-Drive additionally refuses to die. It’s a mid-Nineteen Eighties construct and easy however efficient.
Most pointless piece of know-how?
The handbrake on the brand new 6R215 appears a pointless merchandise, and these fashionable tractors additionally serve up a bamboozling quantity of data on the varied screens.
However the worst we’ve come throughout is the “brake to impartial” perform on the Valtras, which disengages the drive once you contact the brake pedal. It little question has its makes use of however, for the hills on this space, it’s deadly.
Favorite little bit of equipment?
The hydraulic prime hyperlink has proved a helpful luxurious on the subject of establishing implements, however there’s no beating autosteer – even on a hill farm comparable to ours – because it means we will drink espresso and eat dinner on the transfer.
Different issues we’d like however don’t but have embody a reversing fan for the tractor, as we typically find yourself stopping to blow out after each discipline when mowing, and a reverse drive on the baler.
On the farming aspect of issues, we’d wish to have extra inexperienced crop collaborations with lowland arable farmers.
These enable us to develop stubble turnips and short-term grass leys over winter, offering feed for the sheep and a reduce of silage earlier than their pea crops are drilled in early Could.
We are inclined to sow Italian ryegrass in August, virtually as quickly because the mix has left the sector. Because it’s a quick, vigorous grower, it establishes rapidly, and we will begin utilizing it from October.
The great thing about the system is that there’s no lease to pay – we simply cowl the price of seed and fertiliser – and the arable farmers get the advantage of sheep muck at no cost.
The potential is huge. The one draw back is that we’re on the mercy of the pea group, which implies we’ve got to be out of the sector at a set date, even when it doesn’t match with taking a great crop of silage.
In the identical vein, we’re seeking to proceed our comparatively new muck-for-straw preparations.
We gave up the straw baling after shifting to a set chamber baler, as prospects didn’t need tender centred bales.
As an alternative, some native arable farmers bale their very own straw, which Thomas then collects and brings house. We ship muck in return, which totalled about 3,500t final 12 months.
Our financial savings on straw meant we paid for the muck trailer, a Larrington 20t triple-axle on flotation tyres, within the first 12 months. The trailer additionally will get used for amassing hen muck, of which we had about 800t this 12 months.
Within the shed
Tractors John Deere 6R215, Valtra T214 and N174 (each with Quicke loaders)
Telehandlers John Deere 3215, plus a second on rent
Grass McHale Fusion 3 baler-wrapper, Claas Disco entrance and rear mowers, Claas tedders and rakes, Spearhead batwing topper
Cultivations Simba 23C 4m discs, Kverneland five-furrow plough and press, Bomford Dyna-Drive
Reseeder Opico Grass Grasp 6m
Spreading and spraying Amazone mounted sprayer (24m/1,500-litre), Kuhn Axis 40.1 fert spreader, Marshall 12t muckspreader
Trailers Chieftan 32ft low-loader, Bailey 32ft flatbed with Plowman inventory field, Stewart and Bailey dump trailers
Diggers JCB 150HD and Bobcat mini excavator